What is it about?

If students should understand everyday technologies with the help of what they learned at school, they need to transfer this knowledge from school to everyday life. This study looks at problems that students might have with such knowledge transfer. We found that several students had difficulty to imagine computing technology as simultaneously small and powerful, effectively limiting its perceived distribution and capabilities. To some computing students, it may not occur to think about computing in their daily lives at all. We propose some first steps to address this.

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Why is it important?

"We do not learn for school, but for life." If students do not make use of their school-learned knowledge in their actual lives, education has failed its purpose. If students have an abstract understanding of, for example, algorithms, networking or data storage, but have no concept of where and how these actually occur in their lives, the usefulness of this knowledge is drastically reduced.


In the context of "computational thinking" much work in computing education focuses on abstract knowledge, patterns and concepts. In my view, this study shows that we also must not neglect or even shun the issue of concrete existing technologies. Jeannette Wing once called for "ideas, not artifacts." I firmly believe it has to be "ideas and artifacts."

Michael T. Rücker
Humboldt-Universitat zu Berlin

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This page is a summary of: Small but Powerful, ACM Transactions on Computing Education, June 2020, ACM (Association for Computing Machinery), DOI: 10.1145/3377880.
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